Thursday, 30 July 2015

Road Cone

Rather than the bright orange road cone, if you see ones like this it is an indication that a funeral is taking place.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Enter a World of Fairytales

A nomadic yurt and storytellers from the Crick Crack Club, Fabularium is a pop up at Southbank, that promises to whisk kids and adults into the magical world of myths and fairytales.  Add to that a competition for dressing up - let your imagination run wild.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

View from the sky

London's first cable car was built in 2012 crossing the Thames from Greenwich Peninsula to  Royal Victoria Dock.  It's a bit of a white elephant as the numbers using it are very small.  Still if you are out that way it is an inexpensive way to see great views of London, including the Thames Barrier, the O2 and Canary Wharf.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Ted wishes for ...

... the sweet taste of freedom in an American Dream, doesn't find Czech enticing, dallies in Denmark, and then settles down with a Scottish Vagabond. What on earth are you on about now Ted?  Well since you asked (yes you did I heard you) I am talking about “gluten free” beer.

Until relatively recently if you were one of the (surprisingly) large number of people who are gluten intolerant or celiac your “decent” beer choices were limited to err umm … wine. The reason being that the traditional ingredients in beer are water, brewer’s yeast, hops and a form of starch, and that's where the trouble starts as starch sources like malted barley or wheat are rich in gluten.  I say “decent” beer in the “acceptable standard” sense of the word as of course  there were early versions of gluten free beers around but they were, let’s face it, disappointing at best and disgusting at worst (much like alcohol free wine come to that).

Well it’s all changing now as some of the quality brewers of the boutique and craft beer movements around the globe are getting themselves into the game and brewing with starch sources that are very low or free of gluten like milletricesorghum (a grain producing member of the grass family) buckwheat, and corn, and they are getting some pretty damn drinkable results. To prove the point, to ourselves mostly, I set out with my GF consultant who shall remain nameless (Gill) and her equally anonymous non-GF beer appreciating hubby (David) on a mini tasteathon. We started off nicely with a summer everyday “go to” light bubbly thirst quenching lager, Estrella Damm Daura from Spain. Then we wandered down the road to The Beer Boutique in Putney and tried a trio.

Celia a light lager from Czech, a little too light for me and I think the hops tasted sour, maybe needs food to show its best. Next came two very good offerings from Mikkeller. “I Wish” India Pale Ale – citrus aromas and taste with a good hop kick and a satisfying mouth-feel. “American Dream” lager with a nose of sweet malt, corn, citrus, caramel and clove, throw in honey on the palate and a long finish and there you have it.

Last, but certainly not least, a Brewdog Vagabond Pale Ale that I picked up from Hop Burns & Black which I can sum up by saying that a UK beer expert picked it in a line up as one of his three favourites without knowing it was GF – he "just liked it”. Me too … 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Double Vision

When I passed by it was still a work in progress attracting curious attention.  It is a replica Tower Bridge made from 83,000 recycled batteries.  Now that is some publicity stunt don't you agree?

Friday, 24 July 2015

Leaf Man

At first glance it looks like a very strange sculpture of a person in a rather odd position.  However on closer inspection and peering over the greenery, it is a man on a bicycle.

A little research and I discovered it was a sculpture made to coincide with the 2007 Tour de France.  The greenery around the sculpture has grown a lot in the past eight years.  Where?  On the roundabout at the entrance to the Rotherhithe Tunnel.

Thursday, 23 July 2015


Construction sites, cranes in the air, the fast ferry and then the Dixie Queen paddle boat wanders up the river.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Man, the Bunker, and the Executioner's Ancestor

I've been meaning to visit the Churchill War Rooms for some time now and last week finally found the time to combine my visit with a guided tour of Westminster, with the good folk at City Wonders.

History was never this exciting at school.  The secret tunnels, the original palace of Whitehall, the kings and commoners, Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, and how Churchill rose to become one of Great Britain's most famous Prime Ministers.

Robert our Irish tour guide took us back several centuries with tales of the secret powers of the sword weilded by Richard the LionHeart, perhaps one of the most famous kings of England, yet a King that would gladly have sold England if he could have found a buyer, being French as he was!

Mingled with our history lesson Robert kept us entertained with his quick witted sense of humour.  Do you know for example that the two tonne minute hand on Big Ben takes a whole hour to travel around the face, and two double decker London buses could drive side by side through the clock face.

We learned of the excesses of Charles I and his parties at Banqueting House, although life didn't stay fun for him, as he lost his head.  That is a tale in itself.  The executioner on the payroll couldn't bring himself to relieve the king of his head so another executioner had to be found.  An Irishman stepped into the breach and duly wielded the axe.  Our guide Robert has had a passion for history from early childhood, so he set about trying to find out more about the mysterious Irishman.  Imagine his (and our) surprise to learn that he discovered that he is no less than a direct descendant of that executioner.

We took a peek at the church where Churchill and Clementine were married and learned about his passion for wearing siren suits (we call these "onesies" now).  He loved them so much he even wore one to his wedding.  I jest, but he did buy one for the king as a gift.  The image I have in my head of the two of them has me reaching for the whisky bottle - both men were partial to a tipple or two.

Churchill may have inspired a nation to continue fighting throughout the bleakest of times, however he wasn't a fan of equality for women.

He famously told the house of commons women didn't need the vote as they "are fairly represented by their husbands, fathers and brothers".

It is believed that Churchill actually ordered the police with batons to clear a suffragette demonstration.  This didn't quite turn out as expected and thanks to Robert I have found the wonderful Punch cartoon the suffragette that knew jiujitsu

The war rooms themselves are an amazing time capsule. After the war they were sealed off and abandoned, with everything left just as it was, even down to cigarette butts in the ashtrays.  It wasn't until 1984 that they were opened to the public.

The rooms underwent a revamp in 2005 at which time a suite of rooms used by Churchill, his wife and close associates was added to the museum.  Imagine what life was like for the dedicated team who lived and worked in this underground bunker.

An exhibition of Churchill's life and times is also on at the museum, beginning from his early childhood through to the end of his life.  It is easy to forget what a wonderful orator he was.  As he says of himself "I have always earned my living by my pen and my tongue".

The tour and visit to the war rooms is definitely a must for both locals and visitors alike.  City Wonders really are wonderful and go the extra mile as I discovered when I went to the wrong meeting place.  They sent someone out to find me and link me up with the group.

After being thoroughly entertained by Robert, we got another bonus when he brought us to a secret entrance to the war rooms which meant we didn't have to stand in the incredibly long queue to get inside.

Why don't pigeons ever sit on the head of Churchill's statue?  Take the tour to find out!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


Remember those ladybird books?  Fairy stories, people at work, how things work, the science and nature series, it all began 100 years ago.  Some of the images seem dated and portray outdated stereotypes by todays standards.   However they were a major part of several generations of children's learning.

I was surprised to learn that the series "how things work" were used to help teach adults in industry, for example how a computer works or how a car engine works.

To celebrate the century, an exhibition of the illustrations accompanied by film footage with an interview with the creators daughter is currently showing at the House of Illustration at Granary Square, in Kings Cross until 27 September 2015.  Accompanying the exhibition are a series of workshops and discussions inspired by the books.

Monday, 20 July 2015

New Life for the Mills

The Millennium Mills building have been at the heart of Silvertown as London's largest flour milling centre since Victorian times, until it fell into disrepair in the 1980s. It's about to take centre stage yet again by being the centre piece in the planned Silvertown regeneration, as the new creative hub of London. I got invited along to see inside before the redevelopment kicks off.

The History

The Mills have come along way to even get to where they are today - looking at their history I am tempted to say "you can't kill the mills". The early mills were built in 1905 equiped with state of the art technology producing the finest flour from the "best wheats of the world."  Spillers milling company took them over in 1920 when demand was growing for the beautiful white bread sandwiches especially among those in the mining districts.

Disaster struck in 1917 when a massive explosion in the nearby munitions factory, that was manufacturing explosives for the military during WW1, either destroyed or severely damaged everything within the surrounding 17 acres.  It is purported that it even blew out the windows in the Ritz Hotel several miles away.

Rebuilt in art deco style in 1933 the building again stood grandly on the banks of the Thames until WW2, when it was again severely damaged.  This time by German bombs.

Post war the building was reconstructed and in 1953 rose to glory yet again.   Over 100,000 workers were employed in the Silvertown and surrounding Docklands area during this period.

Containerisation and air cargo had a devastating impact on industry in Docklands, and by the 1980's the area was empty and remained largely abandoned until the regeneration projects of the 21st century started, creating the new Docklands.

Creative Times

Even in the early days those who worked or lived here were creative and innovative (yes innovation existed before the 21st century).  During Spillers time they not only milled flour but they famously began producing "Winalot" dog biscuits in 1927, targeting the greyhound racing market.  (They now specialise in pet food).

They were creative orally as well, the term "toe-rag" originated in Silvertown with grain workers known as toe-raggers due to their habit of tying their trousers to prevent the grain getting inside.

During the derelict years Millenium Mills was a backdrop in movies, The Last of England, Brazil and Green Zone, in television, Ashes to Ashes, and Splinter Cell, and music videos by Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys and Orbital all used the Mills as part of their creations.

During the London Olympics the area opened as London's Pleasure Gardens, a place for hosting music and art events.  A last remnant of this time being the "ghost ad" by one of America's most famous street artists Shepard Fairey.

So what's next for the un-killable Mills?

Well, in April this year the Newham Council granted permission for a new £3.5 billion redevelopment project, injecting £12 million start up money to aid in the first step of removing asbestos from the building.

This new ambitious project aims to spend the next 10 years transforming the area into a mixed development of "commercial and brand spaces, homes, leisure, culture, new parks and gardens." They promise affordable "brand hubs" more than 20,000 jobs and 3,000 new homes.

In essence then the laudable aim of breathing creative and innovative life once more to Silvertown.

aglimpseoflondon will keep you posted.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Ted gets spooned

… The Doll said “Ted I think you should pay attention to traditional institutions that are becoming extinct in London”. I panicked for a moment as I thought she meant me in a cryptic roundabout kinda way. But phew .. what she actually had in mind was local “cafes” sometimes called “working men’s cafes” and usually referred to by the general public as “Greasy Spoons”. But Ted they are all over London, so why the concern? Well … most of them are small independently owned businesses that fiercely eschew being part of the omnipresent fast food joints and large ubiquitous high street chains. However, as the building of high rise apartments continues apace all over London they are generally being forced out as they can no longer afford the rent on the low food prices they charge, only to be replaced by the “same as same as” joints and chains … there’s a tragic irony for you eh!

“Greasy Spoons” are not only feeding and watering holes for the locals, they are also the mainstay of cabbies, (as in black cabs) and outside of London, long distance lorry drivers, both of whom previously had such notoriously bad eating habits that in 2001 it lead to a hoax in the UK press that the European Union were trying to ban greasy spoon cafes (imagine how that went down before they realised it was a hoax!!!).  So … I immediately contacted my cafe consultant who shall remain nameless (Les) for a rendezvous at a “spoon” of his choosing. He chose one called (appropriately) “Workman's” in North London. My equally anonymous cafe calorie counting consultant (Fliss) recommended that I have the mixed grill. Over a mug of strong tea, known as “Builder’s tea”, Les quietly but firmly tried to dissuade me of that option by telling me that it was a rather “massive” plate of food.

Hey this me me ... I am Ted of massive appetite, massive appetite, gigantic even ... this would be a piece of cake for me right .. right ?

My gigantic plate full arrived, delivered by a lovely waitress who I can only think must actually be able to represent the UK in Olympic weight lifting. She deposited it in front of me with a smile that hinted of a challenge. Heaps of … bacon, egg, sausages, lamb chops, liver, chips, tomatoes, mushrooms, and lots and lots of peas. I set out with gusto, and pretty soon was roundly and soundly beaten … I took a black cab home.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Soak up the Sun

London's very own Riviera.  Sip a pina colada put on your sunnies and chill out.  Perhaps a bit too much of the chilling out given the current temperatures.  (20C that feels like 17C promised today).

Friday, 17 July 2015

A Peek Inside

A few days ago I showed you the outside of City Hall with a promise that I would take you inside.

Today we step inside.  The reason is to see the Bleeding London exhibition.  The exhibition is a selection of some of the 58,000 photos taken in the RPS project, the brain child of RPS member Del Barrett.  Inspired by the book of the same name the project sought to photograph every street in the London A-Z guide (the 1991 copy).

The project ran for the year up to October 2014.  Remember my early contributions? The exhibition is on at City Hall until 14 August.

Thursday, 16 July 2015


Some of the hundreds of sikhs protesting outside the houses of parliament yesterday.  They are angry about human right abuses in India and are asking the UK government to take this up with the Indian Prime Minister when he visits this coming November.
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